Stirling Engines the hype and the truth

Above is a video of a toy Stirling Engine, it was invented in 1816 & can generate mechanical power from a temperature difference. I had a few ideas about using the technology.
How Stirling Engines work is described here here
And various configurations are on the Wikipedia page

The first idea I had to use a Stirling Engine was where one uses heat from a bulk tank to heat hot water to wash the milk lines in a milking parlour. This saves a lot of electricity for farmers but one doesn't want the hot water getting above around 80 celcius as the refrigeration fluid would be too hot to cool milk going back into the bulk tank. These units are called heat recovery systems for bulk tanks. Technical info on the system can be found here and here. These systems could save about one thousanth of the electricity used in the world and reducing the carbon footprint. As heating 40 gallons of water per milking is not cheap.

The system uses an Electric Fan on the Condenser, this devices Electic Motor could be repaced with a Stirling Engine powered by the hot water & started by an electric starter but farmers value reliability especially when it comes to keeping milk fresh and in my opinion an electric motor would be more reliable than a Stirling Engine.

The second idea I came up with was came up with by WhisperGen here and here who failed to make a commercial success of the device.

Take the Solar Panels which heat a typically 40 gallon reservior of water in peoples house. This hot water could be used to generate electricity for a few days in hot weather for free and would be serious competition to Elon Musk's Solar City with its huge expensive dangerous lithium ion battery concept inside peoples houses which typically costs 3500 euro for any decent configuration. The Stirling Engine using the hot water to create a heat difference could power a generator.

The main disadvantage of a Stirling Engine is that it is best used in most cases for marine purposes where there is an unlimited supply of cold water to make the temperature difference allow the device to work efficently efficent, it's worse in its need for water than a Steam Engine . The cold part of the Stirling Engine being cooled by air doesn't cut it. It could also be used to generate power from the radiator in an internal combustion engine.

Now that I've depressed you on the usefulness of the Stirling Engine after the initial excitement have a look at the Ram Pump instead

About the Author

D.J. Barrow is an Engineer and Linux Consultant based in Ireland, his website is here

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